Mini-Review: BLACK SCIENCE, Vol.1 – “How To Fall” (Image)

BlackScience-Vol.01A fascinating, strange, and engaging science fiction series

Writer: Rick Remender | Artists: Matteo Scalera & Dean White

Grant McKay has done the impossible! Using the Pillar, he has punched a hole through the barriers between dimensions, allowing travel to all possible universes. But now Grant and his team are trapped in the folds of infinity, the Pillar sending them careening through a million universes of unimaginable adventure, sanity-flaying danger and no way home…

Collects: Black Science #1-6

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Black Science. It received a healthy amount of pre-publication buzz – not surprising, given that it’s written by Remender (Deadly Class, Low, Captain America, Uncanny Avengers). Things move pretty quickly in this book, as readers are thrown straight into the action, which never lets up. The series includes everything you might want from a multi-dimensional action/adventure: strange and dangerous situations, back-stabbing, a larger conspiracy, weird and wonderful fauna, interesting technology. It also has everything we have come to expect from Remender: excellent story-telling and well-rounded, diverse characters. The story builds quite excellently over the course of the book, and I felt myself sink in as it took hold completely.

I want to avoid going into too much detail, as things move very fast. Grant is an interesting character, and readers will become invested in his quest and fate, just as they will for the fates of his companions. (Spoiler: not everyone’s going to get out of this one alive…)

Scalera’s artwork is a little strange, quite angular, but by no means unattractive. He does a great job of giving Remender’s story life, merging the weird and scientific excellently. It’s an eye-catching book, certainly.

Overall, then, a highly recommended new series for every fan of science fiction, sci-fi comics, and interdimensional story-telling. This was a lot of fun. I really can’t wait for volume two!

Hinterkind, Vol.1 – “The Waking World” (Vertigo)

Hinterkind-01-ArtWriter: Ian Edginton | Artist: Francesco Trifogli

In a post-apocalyptic world where humans have been pushed to the edge of extinction by the creatures of fantasy and fables, THE HINTERKIND tells the story of one young woman’s quest to fulfill her destiny and put the world right again.

Fifty-seven years after an unspecified biological event has all but wiped out the human race, a green hand has moved over the face of the Earth. Leaf, root and shoot have steadfastly smothered the works of man, remorselessly grinding the concrete, glass and steel back into the minerals from whence they came. Mother Nature is reclaiming what’s rightfully hers but she’s not the only one…

The Hinterkind have returned. They come from hiding places in the lost corners of the world: Centaurs, Satyrs, Elves, Dwarves, Ogres, Trolls, Werewolves, Vampires…

They’re also known as “the Hidden,” “the Twilight People,” the “walkers-in-shadow,” collective names for the menagerie that mankind has hung its tales of myth and magic upon – but these aren’t fairy tale creatures. They are flesh, blood and passion, and they have a long simmering hatred of humanity.

They are a divergent species. Exotic evolutionary try-outs that couldn’t compete with the rapacious ape. Hunted to near extinction through fear and ignorance, they fled to the great forests and deserts, losing themselves in the shrinking wilderness of an ever-expanding world.

Now the wilderness is the world and mankind is in the minority.

Collects: HINTERKIND #1-6

This is a strange, promising, and yet somewhat flawed start to a new series.

The first issue presents a fantastic post-apocalyptic world – one in which human society has been near-destroyed, global populations brought to the brink of extinction. Our protagonists are based in Central Park, New York, and have built a working community: foraging for leftover items in the over-grown city around them, hunting the wildlife. It’s a stunning start, actually, and I was immediately drawn to the setting. The characters and writing were strong, and they were well-realised by the artwork.

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Then things started to get a bit weird, and this is where (for me) the series stumbled: it became very busy, and the story grew expansive so quickly, that the mash-up of genres started to feel like it was trying too hard. I hesitated for a bit, deciding on how much detail this review should go in to, but I think it’s worth pointing some things out: there are army survivors similar to Buffy’s Initiative (only, weirder), the sidhe and other fairytale creatures have proliferated across the world, and the post-apocalyptic environment can cause mutations. All of this is revealed over this one book. I feel it may have been better to unveil the overall world more gradually, teasing us with possibilities, rather than dumping them all on in very quick succession.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot to enjoy in this book. The artwork is eye-catching; the writing is well-composed; and the characters are pretty interesting. I’m certainly looking forward to reading volume two, when it’s available.

Not the best start to a new Vertigo series, but still better than a lot of other publishers’ new books.

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Original Issue Covers #1-6, by Greg Tocchini

Rat Queens, Vol.1 – “Sass & Sorcery” (Image Comics)

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe | Artist: Roc Upchurch

Who are the Rat Queens?

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit.

It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!

Collects: Rat Queens #1-5

In the tradition of Skullkickers (also published by Image) and Princeless, Rat Queens is a tongue-in-cheeky, funny take on traditional sword-and-sorcery tropes. We have the classic fantasy band of adventurers, with an amusing dynamic. That they happen to all be women is a nice touch, too, and Wiebe clearly shows (without any type of preaching) that there’s no reason why only big, hulking male barbarians or wizened, white-bearded sages have to be at the centre of fantasy adventures. Someone in the Rat Queen’s home town is setting up the local mercenary bands – engineering deadly assignments intended to eradicate them entirely. Unfortunately for the conspiracists, the Rat Queens won’t go down without a fight, a lot of killing and plenty of raucous fun.

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As the first volume, we’re still only just getting to know the characters by the end, but I am very eager to read more of their adventures. There is a perfect balance between action, story, and just plain fun in this first volume. At the same time, Wiebe does not ignore the importance of character development, and we start to see them develop a good deal over the course of this collection – there’s still plenty of scope for expansion, which I have no doubt the creative team will firmly exploit in the future.

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There were so many great touches throughout that just made me like the characters more – the unusual, perhaps conflicting character traits and mannerisms they have round them out wonderfully (one, for example, has extreme social anxiety, despite being able to throw down with a troll – below), and even after this short introduction to them, we start to see them as fully-rounded, three-dimensional characters. The dialogue and interaction between the cast is sharp and funny. There are a fair few background gags and asides that a quick read might miss (poor, put upon Dave, for example).

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The artwork is clear, if slightly cartoony. This does not detract from the story, rather it enhances and complements it perfectly – Upchurch realises the action and visual gags extremely well. Like my other favourite artists, Upchurch has a gift for drawing and presenting facial expressions, and conveying so much with a simply smirk, raised eyebrow, or knowing glance. It really adds an excellent, bonus nuance to how the characters interact with each other.

A must-read for fantasy and comics fans. Long live the Rat Queens! Can’t wait to read book two.

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Suicide Risk, Vol.1 (Boom Studios/Titan Comics)

SuicideRisk-Vol.1-ArtWriter: Mike Carey | Artist: Elena Casagrande

Even when there are only villains, being a hero makes you a…

Super-powered people are inexplicably rising from the streets and there’s a big problem: Too many supervillains, not enough superheroes. Heroes are dying, and cops are dying twofold. Humanity is underpowered in the face of their onslaught, and people are suffering untold casualties trying to stem the flow.

After barely surviving a super-powered bank heist gone horribly wrong, beat cop Leo Winters vowed to try and find a way to stop them. Following a lead, he discovered two lowlifes who seemed to be able to grant a person powers… for the right price. Thing is: you don’t get to choose which power. It’s seemingly random, a crap-shoot, a risk. Will Leo decide to take that risk? And why is it that even the heroes in this world eventually break?

Collects: Suicide Risk #1-4

I have long been a fan of Mike Carey’s work – his comic-series The Unwritten and Lucifer (Vertigo) are easily among my top five favourites; and his most recent novel, The Girl With All the Gifts (Orbit) is one of my favourite reads this year. Carey’s new original ongoing series is a great one. Anyone interested in superheroes should check this out. Continue reading

Princeless Vol.1 – “Save Yourself” (Action Lab)

Princeless-Vol.1Writer: Jeremy Whitley | Art: M. Goodwin

Princeless is the story of Princess Adrienne, one princess who’s tired of waiting to be rescued. Join Adrienne, her guardian dragon, Sparky, and their plucky friend Bedelia as they begin their own quest in this one of a kind, action packed, all-ages adventure!

Collects: Princeless Vol.1 #1-4

This was a very pleasant surprise. It’s a progressive, all-ages comic book that should have massive appeal across age groups. The story is witty, well-written, and the artwork is filled with amusing and eye-catching details. I really enjoyed this, and think a lot of others will, too.

The story and ‘message’ (not wanting to get too academic about this) is also very good. It’s a story about a princess rebelling against the Fantasy/Fairy Tale Archetypes. It begins with her shrewdly pointing out the idiocy of sticking princesses in towers in the middle of nowhere guarded by hungry dragons. It’s the only time the financial flaw in such a plan has been pointed out… The rest of the book picks up on a number of fantasy tropes, not to mention the archaic conventions related to women (young, old, noble, and peasant). There were so many scenes that made me laugh or smile. Not only the moment when our heroine discovered the sword under her bed (“Oooh. Shiny.”); but also the excellent scene in which she acquires her own, proper armour.

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I won’t go into any more detail than that, as I think it would ruin many of the other jokes. You’ll find a great protagonist in Adrienne, you’ll grow attached to her new (almost Chewbacca-meets-dog) dragon companion, her zany new ally, and her brother is pretty great, too. I urge everyone to read this. If it found its way into the hands of young readers everywhere, as well as adults’, then it could do a lot for breaking down gender barriers in storytelling and genre fiction/media (in the long and short term).

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Princeless is a must-read for anyone looking for a progressive, fun comic book. Also perfect for anyone who enjoyed Frozen and other similar movies. I really can’t wait to read volume two. Very highly recommended.

Cemetery Girl, Vol.1 – “The Pretenders” by Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden (Jo Fletcher Books)

Harris&Golden-CemeteryGirl1-PretendersAn excellent first part in an original graphic novel trilogy by two New York Times bestselling authors

Writers: Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden | Art: Don Kramer | Colours: Daniele Rudoni | Letters: Jacob Bascle

She calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill — names taken from the grim surroundings where she awoke, bruised and bloody, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or who left her for dead.

She has made the cemetery her home, living in a crypt and avoiding human contact. But Calexa can’t hide from the dead — and because she can see spirits, they can’t hide from her.

Then one night, Calexa spies a group of teenagers vandalizing a grave — and watches in horror as they commit murder. As the victim’s spirit rises from her body, it flows into Calexa, overwhelming her mind with visions and memories not her own.

Now Calexa must make a decision: continue to hide to protect herself — or come forward to bring justice to the sad spirit who has reached out to her for help…

This is Charlaine Harris’s first original graphic novel project. Teaming up with fellow New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden, they have come up with something pretty interesting, too. The Pretenders is the first part of a trilogy, and as a result does not present a tidy ending. In fact, rather the opposite: by the end of the book, Calexa has helped solve one crime, it’s true, but along the way readers will be confronted by a number of intriguing questions and mysterious goings-on – be they Calexa’s memories or her new-found powers.

The artwork throughout is pretty good – it’s nothing particularly unique, but it is clean and clear; and overall the compositions enrich the story and realise it in a vivid, eye-catching manner. The story itself moves at a good clip: despite the relative slimness of the book, the story doesn’t feel rushed, but not does it feel drawn out. In fact much of the story focuses on Calexa getting used to, and making her life in the cemetery (now you know where the series title comes from), and I actually liked this. The Urban Fantasy equivalent of the Origin Story, perhaps? The synopsis states that she avoids people, which is for the most part true, however, despite her sneaking about, there are a couple of people who learn of her existence and extend a helping hand (albeit clandestinely). For me, it was this part of the story – one of unexpected kindness and help – that stood out. No doubt, with parts two and three, the supernatural shenanigans and Calexa’s past will be unveiled. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out the true about what brought our protagonist to the cemetery in the first place, but in the meantime, The Pretenders is a great introduction to this setting.

Recommended for all fans of Harris’s and Golden’s previous prose-fiction, but also Urban Fantasy as a whole and comics that dabble in similar territories (for example, the Buffy graphic novels, which Golden has also worked on).